DAC Demos

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by jimmy_b, Aug 11, 2004.

  1. jimmy_b

    jimmy_b
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    Hi all

    After some consideration I've decided to go down the separate DAC route so am now ready to demo some kit!

    I am finding it extremely hard to find much information outside of these pages on what I might be able to get in the sub £1K price region (second hand or otherwise).

    So, can anyone recommend a short list. My only real requirement other than price is that it have at least 3 digital inputs (for CD player, DAB and PC).

    Also, where the heck does one go to get a DAC demo?? None of the major retailers (AudioT, Sevenoaks, Richer) list any on their websites. I certainly wouldn't want to buy one without hearing it, especially as I'll need to decide whether the transport from my Pioneer 565 is decent enough as a transport or whether a new spinner is in order too.

    Cheers in advance
    Jimmy

    PS - I live in the London area (for the purpose of recommending demo dealers)
     
  2. Knightshade

    Knightshade
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    Hi Jimmy,
    Try the TAG McClaren DAC20 This will do what you want. I'm not sure on the price though. I know it has (I think) 6-7 digital imputs. As a DAC it's so so. I demo'd it and wasn't particularly impressed.
    Most higher end DACs use BNC/COAX type connectors. The digital imput is almost an afterthought.
    If you can find a second hand, second generation CHORD DAC 64 you wouldn't go far wrong. One on ebay went for £1100 the other week.
    I know it's a bit more than you wanted to pay but it really is one of the best around. I use it on a LINN CD12 (I originally bought it to improve my Exposure 3010 system - turned out it's better than the DAC in the CD12 annoying as hell, up to that point the CD 12 was the best thing i'd ever heard.) bottom line is no matter what the source this will improve it.
    The transport doesn't have to be anything special to notice a huge improvement (Soundstage gets bigger, music is more co-hesive, timing improves and everything just sounds clearer and far more refined) you won't recognise your CD player....

    I know this may not be much help to you but Radfords in Bath stock them.

    website is:
    www.chordelectronics.co.uk

    Good luck
     
  3. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Excellent choice If I may say so Jimmy.

    DAC opinons vary from fora to for a, try this one and do a search on DACs :

    http://forum.hifichoice.co.uk/search.php?sid=f9860fa42596d85b4132c06709df0021

    At the £1000 mark there are a few DACs knocking about that should be up for consideration, demoing is usually tricky unless you get a credit card swipe and take one home with you, not all hifi shops like doing this. I know Walrus in London do the £1200 MF Trivsita you could demo that there to hear it, a few other places will demo you the £1900 Chord 64 Mk II, but generally the general vibe of buying DACs is second hand (if you don’t like them sell them on afterwards which I have done no problem in the past – just choose a good one first of course).

    What DACs @ £1000 well you could have the following chaps :

    Perpetual Tech P1A-P3A-Monolith PSU (3 Boxes but well regarded)
    Meridian 568 24 Bit
    MF Trvista DAC seen one 2nd hand last week for £850
    Chord DAC 64 Mk Is (although have started to see some issues with these re. locking & overheating recently)

    If it were me, I would consider a TAG AV32 with either the 96Khz DACs or the upgraded 192Khz DACs, the added bonus is that you get a very able digital preamp section for (5.1 or stereo thrown in) As a DAC on its own it’s a wonderful piece of kit, it also has as many digital inputs as you would ever need. I would easily buy one to use as a DAC. These go from £700-1000.

    Jimmy I recently did an “experiment” with my DAC (TAG DAC 20) and fired 2 vastly differing DVD-V players into it (£90 Sony 355 & Pioneer 717), I could hear no difference to my ears, a well designed DAC should latch onto any jitter laden signal and be able to produce a pleasing enough analogue conversion. This is where many audiophiles veer in different directions with re. to jitter and DACs, I know many who go all out to conquer jitter effects (dedicated CD transports, jitter reducing connections BNC-XLR/AES et al, endless cable swapping and tweakery) and ones that are simply happy enough with what their DAC does in the first instance (You be either way inclined FWIW so worth asking yourself what you believe in audio terms, for example if you think in terms of cabling in your system that you hear vast differences between IC (anlg & digital) then you will happen to choose the “all or nothing route” if you catch my drfit with re. to your 565.

    I happen to think my DAC 20 is a stunning device with DVD-V (some of the best stuff Ive heard is from that medium LPCM), CD, HDCDs, I also use my Minidisc off a toslink connection sounds great to me, and I use Freeview Digital radio via a 10m DIY coaxial cable to the DAC. Maybe you should dip your toe in the water a bit lower down than £1000, as mentioned above you can pick up DAC 20s for £350 2nd hand, I know of no other DAC with the same input roster (7 digital inputs – including audiohile tweakery friendly BNC & XLR/AES) if you feel the need to tweak your transport vibes. Then maybe somewhere down the line if you could source a Primare DVD30, SACD/DVDA uni player with a XLR/AES digital output. I saw one recently for £1450 ex-dem. I feel no need to go to that level FWIW after hearing how good that £90 Sony DVD player sound in my setup.

    HTHs in some fashion dude, and of course its all IMHO.

    Knightshade an interesting query for you here, have you tried any other transport devices into that DAC 64 other than the CD12 ? I believe the designer of the 64 Rob Watts is on record as saying Toslink is the best connection to use as it makle the device transport independant. Have you tried a £90 DVD-V player in toslink mode ? :D
     
  4. jimmy_b

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    Thanks knightshade and cjross for your input. I at least have a place to start from now although find it a bit dissappointing that they are so hard to demo!! Why don't the well known stores stock DACs? Just not popular I guess.

    Anyway, I have some further questions/thoughts for you both:

    General -
    Chord DAC 64 - This doesn't seem to have enough inputs. Surely the idea of a DAC (or at least my main reason for getting one) is so you can send it all your musical sources without relying on many separate DACs (integrated into your various sources) which will probably be inferior anyway.

    DAC 20 - Seems like the best way forward. If only they did them in silver.....

    Knightshade -
    "Most higher end DACs use BNC/COAX type connectors. The digital imput is almost an afterthought."
    Sorry, not sure what you mean here - please explain! :confused:

    CJross -
    My experience with offboard DACs is zero and I am quite new to this whole game anyway, having been happy with my old separates for some 10 or so years now. Having said that, I agree with you 100% that the transport won't make a blind bit of difference if the DAC reclocks the signal (provided the transport is sufficiently good not to cause data drop out, which most are these days). See the other DAC related thread about "Won't I ever buy another CD again" for my views on this. Noone has given me any scientific reason to suggest that "jitter" causes any problem until you convert to analogue.
    I'd like to confirm this theory with some blind testing and after taking the DAC plunge, will probably use my 565 and my friend's Arcam73 to prove the theory! Anyway, I digress....

    Could you explain a bit more about the types of connection and their differences / pros / cons. The DAC 20 claims to have 7 inputs but I can only count 5 on the TAG website and am not sure what these are anyway..... :blush:

    Thanks again
    Jimmy
     
  5. Knightshade

    Knightshade
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    Worse than that I connected a Sanyo £30 second hand CD player (one of those you get free with a pack of smarties...) with a toslink cable. Playing DVD Audio (Not I hasten to mention CD - Those results were very poor something to do with the clock speed differences of CD/DVD I would imagine) I actually got some very nice results. It would certainly put a shadow over the LINN UNIDISK that I was testing at the same time. The cable I was using wasn't anything special either. I use the BNC cable because to my ear it sounds nicer. Toslink cable always to me sounds a little 'electronic' you may not understand, maybe it's me being old fashioned!

    CJCROSS
    I've tried the Chord Blu using both BNC connectors and got fantasticly musical sound out of the combination. Only thing I've heard come close to the CD12. Really tough to beat. Now here's something interesting, if your familiar with the DAC 64 (it sounds like you are) you'll be aware of the buffer settings. With my CD12 I use full buffering (Best results) when the DAC was connected to the Blu I found no buffering gave the best results.
    This is mentioned briefly in the manual suggesting that the BLU is in essence a world class CD transport and therefore may not benefit from extra buffering. Any thoughts? :confused:

    Jimmy,
    What ever you decide to go for try and get a listen to Anything that CJCROSS has suggested. You won't be dissapointed. The DAC20 would certainly do the job. You would have enough digital imputs for your needs.
    As for the colour? Well I guess they think it's still the eighties!
    About the digital imput question? It's just something i've noticed on higher end DACS. Digital connections seem to be few and far between. I've always considered DACs to be used for a single source. If you have another source have another DAC. I know that's not very practical and looking around today I see more and more digital connections appearing on DAC's I guess it's because it's only been in the last few years that there has been a need for more connections. Didn't really think that one through very well :laugh:
     
  6. dynamic turtle

    dynamic turtle
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    Hi Jimmy,

    I use a Pioneer 565 as transport and a Tag DAC20 in my main system.

    Now, I don't want to be laughed-out of the forum, but IMHO, I find the 565's internal DACs do a fine job on their own (so much so, that my second 565 in the bedroom is fed straight into the amp). This is a "secondary" system in a small room, so bass definition (which is the 565's weakness) is not really an issue.

    However...

    In the lounge, the DAC20 really adds bass extension & definition. At higher volumes, it tidies up the top end (cymbals don't sound splashy and violins have greater separation/clarity IMO.).

    There are plenty of great DACs available under £1000. Any of those mentioned by the members above should do a great job.

    Question is, how much do you want to spend on perfection?

    My DAC20 cost less than £300 (off weeBay though), which I consider a bargain and leaves plenty of cash spare for a dedicated transport, if you want to go down that route.

    Another DAC I would highly recommend you look at it is the Musical Fidelity A3 24 bit upsampler. I think they are £800 new but you should be able to find one used for £450 -£550.

    DT
     
  7. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    well you should look at the digital DAC-preamps that replaced the DAC 20, the DPA-32R & the 5.1 Processor AV32R both available in silver, more than 5 inputs on those IIRC.

    Well Jimmy we are singing from the same hymn sheet with regard to jitters effect into decently designed DACs, its been long used in Transport + DAC discussions as the biggest concern for audiophiles, even went thru a phase of it myself, what changed my vibes on jitter from crap transports or sources etc etc was being constantly told what I heard in my system was rubbish in someone elses, it patently was not. Enter a period of cable scepticism where I cant detect any changes when blind and volia, Im of the opinion that I was succeptable to pre belief in audio this effected my judgements to a large extent, Ive recently done some experiments with my Pioneer 717 & a £90 Sony 355 DVD player – no difference at all. :

    http://forum.hifichoice.co.uk/viewtopic.php?t=11377

    There are some other guys in that thread with some tasty systems having the same experiences with DACs, I guess our ears are not as good as they could be :D:

    DAC 20 digital inputs are as follows :

    1 XLR/AES 110ohm
    1 BNC 75
    2 RCA SPDIF Coaxial
    3 Toslink Optical

    7 In total, all switchable via an input button on the front panel that toggles inputs connections. Im not the best for exaplining their pro-cons as I happily use RCA / Toslink without any concerns to sound quality, other audiophiles would then step up their input belief to use BNC or XLR FWIW. Which is the good thing about the DAC 20 IMHO, in that it can go as far as you want it (ie Im there just now with a DVD-V player & RCA SPDIF) for example a XLR digital output equipped CD or DVD transport. Only a question you could answer bro, as well all vary in this hobby.

    HTHs
     
  8. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Knightshade I find the marketing spin from Chord about the Blu stunning TBH, the DAC you have in your possession was marketed by Chord as being effectively transport independent, the designer of the unit swears by toslink connection to eliminate transport jitter feeds totally, thence into buffer mode, where it is reintroduced by the power supplies of the DAC 64 IIRC, so its not jitter independent, its as close as you can get at present, back Im digressing here, along comes the £4000 Blu and all of a sudden, Chord are suggesting this as the best solution, now visually I agree but soundwise its an oxymoron from everyhting Ive ever heard owners of 64s saying. I short I think the Blu whilst porbably sounding very good is hyped to give new owners a “pre-belief” envelope to enjoy their product.

    I think the black finish stunning, goes very well with my Primare A30.1 & black Italian Slate fireplace I will have you know.
     
  9. jimmy_b

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    That's brilliant to hear Dynamic Turtle. I agree with you about the lack of "clarity" using the 565 DACs - it is my only source at the moment since my old cd63 busted so I'm having to make do!


    Thanks all of you for your input. I am VERY tempted by the DAC 20 and fully intend to take the plunge. Will report back when I have. Especially once the "transport blind test" has been completed.

    CJROSS - Your slate fireplace sounds wonderful but I still disagree about the black finish to the DAC20!

    Cheers all
    Jimmy
     
  10. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Jimmy If you using a CD63 just now in your system then whats the fuss about a DAC 20 ? Looks apart (which are quite stunning to these eyes) for £300-400, for the input (7 digitals from toslibk to XLR) & output rosta (1 digital RCA + 2 High quality buffered Analg outputs), plus HDCD & Excellent 48Khz reprocessing from DVD-V. I don’t think it has many rivals until you hit the £800-1000 arena 2nd hand.

    A test for you dude when/if you get a DAC 20, buy yourself > Stevie Wonders : Innervisions go to track 9, Misstra Know It All, and listen to the cymbals on that track, try DAC & your normal non DAC CD setup. A very large smile should devleop across your face when the DAC is working away. Also try some DVD-V material in Linear PCM mode.

    Good luck
     
  11. dynamic turtle

    dynamic turtle
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    I'm not saying the 565's lacks "clarity" itself, BTW.

    Large banks of strings are a challenge for any CD player to replicate. The DAC20 lets you know if (e.g.) violas are present, and when they kick-in.

    Paying £350+ for that privelige is a bit of a luxury though :rolleyes:

    DT
     
  12. Knightshade

    Knightshade
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    CJCROSS,
    Ahhh when everything was once black. Those were the days. Totally off subject I know but I happen to like black (Quite envious of the fireplace actually!) unfortunatly my wife doesn't. So as a compromise (i.e. I get to have a hi fi!) everything has to be a peculiar shade of grey...... And speakers must be of light wood...Where did I go wrong......?
    Anyway, I digress, the Chord Blu I'm in agreement with you. It was (Attempted) sold to me on the premise that it is the best thing for the DAC 64? Aesthetically I'd agree. Apart from the fact that a friend of mine who is a Chef happened to drop round when I was deming it and informed me he had a waffle maker just like it.... Kinda killed it for me really. Sonically I found it to be rather good but you would probably get the same results from the DAC20 (Though not the looks). Due to the DAC64 not really being used to it's full potential.
    Ahhh well. The beauty of DACs...
     
  13. dynamic turtle

    dynamic turtle
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    Hi CJ,

    How does the co-axial pass-through work on the dac20? For example, if I feed a dts signal to the dac, will it automatically bypass it through to another component (a/v amp for instance)? Or is it just for digital recording purposes? Does it do anything to the signal on the way through?

    Haven't tried 48Khz LPCM via dvd yet. I assume I have to turn DD & DTS off in my dvdp menu (otherwise it will output DD2.0 etc.)?

    Incidentally, I absolutely agree with you about the 48khz performance of the dac20. The improvement in freeview sound quality (run a toslink from my pioneer DBR1000) is a revelation. I'm not a TV man myself, but have found myself watching it a lot recently because of this!

    DT
     
  14. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Yes I believe it does, ive never passed a DTS signal thru although I recall someone doing so before use the excellent search facility above dude. One thing the DAC 20 does with all incoming DD Bitstream and Linear PCM signals is to reclock them prior to sending them out via the digital output, in effect it reprocesses them. Reclocking reduces the jitter in effect.

    If using PCM your DVD-V player will have a menu setting for digital output, ie Bitstream or LPCM/PCM, I have mine set to PCM at all times. I think most DVD-V player “autodetect” which tracks you have selected and toggle output accordingly. The DAC 20 downmixes all 5.1 digital feeds in the DAC prior to 2 channel output at the anlg outputs dude, I have heard stunning stereo from 5.1 DD DVD-V mixes.

    There are plenty of music DVD-Vs that I can fire off the top of my head that are stunning in both 5.1 Dowmix & LPCM tracks all @ 48Khz. Again a search on this forum will reveal them.

    Good luck my DAC brother.
     

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